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Bruno: Twitter Isn't Only For Narcissists

9065025890_b1a1f674e5_mJay Greene had already established himself as one of the judgiest Twitter observers before publishing his second(!) Twitter "narcissism" index last month. 

The underlying problem with his analyses is that the frequency with which somebody tweets - whether it offends him or not - doesn't actually tell you much about why somebody is using Twitter. Greene's assumption is that the more often people tweet, the more highly they must think of themselves.

That's a convenient interpretation if you're looking to feel superior, but it's probably not worth taking all that seriously because there are lots of reasons why people tweet that have nothing to do with self-importance. The fact is that tweeting is low-cost, so it shouldn't surprise us that some people who really enjoy it - for whatever reason - will do it often.

I tweet pretty frequently. I haven't done the math, but I'm guessing I'd have a pretty high "narcissism" score by Greene's metrics. But I certainly don't think that I'm "saving the world", and I'm acutely aware of the fact that most people have little interest in what I have to say.

Still, tweeting is fun! I like finding links from others, and I enjoy making snarky comments about links of my own. Tweeting also helps me practice brevity, which is useful and rewarding. (Puzzlingly, Greene acknowledges that there are plenty of legitimate reasons to tweet. It's not clear why he assumes those reasons don't apply to others.)

Of course, Twitter is often put to more-obnoxious uses, including for education policy discussions. Some individuals really do rely too heavily on sloganeering, and it's annoying when people try to engage me on Twitter with arguments that are really better suited to blog posts and comment sections. And Twitter - like so many other venues on the internet - enables a great deal of unpleasant tribalism.

Those problems really have little to do with the frequency with which people are tweeting. But have they nevertheless "coarsened education policy discussions", as Greene suggests?

I'm not really sure. But I doubt they're much worse for the discussion than listing participants in order of alleged narcissism. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)


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